Bristol-based situational awareness and control systems developer Fusion Processing Ltd is to take part in the HelmUK Advanced Platooning Trial, the first real-world operational trial of an automated truck convoy in a live commercial environment on UK roads.
A bespoke version of Fusion Processing’s CAVstar system will be used as part of the trial in which cutting-edge technology will enable three DAF Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) to travel safely in close proximity, at speed, with the lead driver controlling the speed, acceleration and braking of the whole ‘platoon’. Use of platooning has the potential to greatly increase fuel efficiency, reduce carbon emissions for trucks and improve safety. The £8.1m (US$10m) trial, funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England (HE), will see Fusion Processing join a consortium of partners including the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), vehicle-maker DAF Trucks, and global logistics company DHL.
Applying experience gained in platooning projects in Europe and the USA, the HelmUK project will be used to collect vital information and independently evaluate heavy vehicle platooning under real-world operational conditions. Importantly, trials will be tailored to the unique requirements of UK roads. The project partners will collate the evidence required to understand potential challenges of platooning and quantify benefits such as fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and safety implications for future infrastructure. The trial will also consider the commercial case for adoption and look at the acceptance of platooning by both platoon drivers and other road users.
The trials will involve two or more DHL vehicles connected with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology, allowing them to effectively work in harmony with each other and operate as a single unit. Driving at a consistent, controlled speed delivers fuel savings and environmental benefits through the reduction of CO2 emissions, while decreasing the distance between vehicles increases road network capacity.
A bespoke version of Fusion Processing’s CAVstar system has been fitted to the DAF trucks, with its optical and radar sensors used to gather vital data on how other drivers behave around the platooning vehicles. This data, which will be analyzed by TRL, will provide critical information on safety matters and how other drivers respond to trucks using this new technology. The on-road trials will form part of regular DHL goods delivery operations. The first phase is expected to take place later this year, following the successful completion of a rigorous program of driving simulations, driver training and test track trials over the coming months. To meet UK on-road safety requirements, each truck in the platoon will have a test driver on board who will retain steering control for their vehicle at all times.
“Taking part in HelmUK, a world-leading trial, is a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase how adaptable our CAVstar sensing and control system is,” noted Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing’s chief executive officer. “Working alongside global brands such as DAF, TRL and DHL demonstrates the robustness of our system to gather vital data that will ultimately inform the rollout of this technology to real-world applications.”